Dar­ing to Resist: Jew­ish Defi­ance in the Holocaust

David Engel and Eva Fogel­man; Yitzchak Mais, ed.
  • Review
By – January 30, 2012

This col­lec­tion of more than thir­ty mem­oirs, oral his­to­ries, and let­ters, enriched by three insight­ful essays, is the com­pan­ion vol­ume to the exhib­it Dar­ing to Resist,” but it eas­i­ly stands on its own as a com­pendi­um of dar­ing and expres­sions of resis­tance: phys­i­cal, spir­i­tu­al, lit­er­ary, and artis­tic. There were those who resist­ed by con­tin­u­ing to hon­or God and to main­tain their faith and belief in Jew­ish spir­i­tu­al val­ues as described in Sanc­ti­fy­ing Life and God’s Name” and by nev­er aban­don­ing their faith — Rab­bi Leo Baeck, Rab­bi Ephraim Oshry, the young Moshe Flink­er. Oth­ers resist­ed with art, by con­tin­u­ing to teach, to com­pose music, to observe Jew­ish hol­i­days, and by main­tain­ing love of their fel­low Jews. Some tried to leave a record, to wit­ness in writ­ing what was hap­pen­ing, notably Dr. Emanuel Ringel­blum; oth­ers by draw­ings and pho­tographs. Resis­tance took many forms. Ordered not to edu­cate, secret class­es were giv­en; con­certs were held; newslet­ters were pub­lished; art was made. Peo­ple were res­cued; there was armed resis­tance and rebel­lion in some ghet­tos; there were death camp upris­ings. And, of course, there were the par­ti­sans and armed resis­tance, despite the con­se­quences for the Jew­ish community. 

Essay­ist David Engel tries to explain why not all Jews fled, as he writes about the dif­fi­cul­ty Jews had in divorc­ing them­selves from his­tor­i­cal instances of cru­el­ty and oppres­sion and to real­ize that this, the Third Reich, was with­out par­al­lel to any­thing that had hap­pened to Jews through­out their his­to­ry. Yitzhak Mais traces the cre­ative Jew­ish respons­es to off­set the Nazis actions against the Jews — new Jew­ish schools, Youth Zion­ist groups, con­cert halls, etc.. He also dis­cuss­es the Jew­ish mis­ap­pre­hen­sions of the Nazi era due to their mem­o­ries of the more gen­tle­man­ly behav­ior of Ger­man sol­diers in World War I to civil­ians. In dis­cussing the Jew­ish gulli­bil­i­ty regard­ing depor­ta­tions — who could have envi­sioned the truth and what oth­er choic­es were avail­able to them? Eva Fogel­man writes about those who blame the vic­tim — (“well, why did you stay? Why didn’t you fight back?” and How did YOU sur­vive,” as in what did you do to sur­vive?) Illus­trat­ed with pho­tographs and draw­ings. Inspi­ra­tional for bright teens and col­lege students. 

Mar­cia W. Pos­ner, Ph.D., of the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al and Tol­er­ance Cen­ter of Nas­sau Coun­ty, is the library and pro­gram direc­tor. An author and play­wright her­self, she loves review­ing for JBW and read­ing all the oth­er reviews and arti­cles in this mar­velous periodical.

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